In this course students learn to think about the reading and writing practices of contemporary visual culture. What does it mean to “read” an image? How are images used politically? Is what is “un-seen” as important as what is seen? Students tackle philosophical, ethical, and political questions, and are encouraged to pursue topics of individual interest for assigned papers and projects. We will ground our discussions in relevant theory and will explore all manner of visual genres, including the graphic novel form, film, magazine ads, and photography. In examining the politics of visual images, this course places special, extended emphasis on images in the context of war and humanitarian crises. Throughout, we will think about our own roles in contemporary visual culture; we are consumers, participators, and creators, and sometimes we have no power over images. What does this mean for us when considered through, for example, an ethical or aesthetic or humanitarian lens? Critical literature by Susan Sontag, Susie Linfield, Scott McCloud, and/or Marita Sturken, among others, will inform our discussions and deepen student writing. Our syllabus also incorporates journalistic accounts and conflict photography, and may include at least one piece by the writer and documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. Students will write reaction papers, longer essays, and have the option of a visual project.